nursery school

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nursery school, educational institution for children from two to four years of age. It is distinguishable from a day nursery in that it serves children of both working and nonworking parents, rarely receives public funds, and has as its primary objective to promote the social and educational adjustment of children, rather than to provide a daytime child-care service. The first nursery schools were opened in London in 1907. Pioneers in nursery school work in the United States were the State Univ. of Iowa; Teachers College, Columbia Univ.; Smith; and Vassar. Early American nursery schools were often sponsored by and affiliated with local universities. The Eliot Pearson School (opened in the 1920s as the Ruggles Street Nursery) is one of the oldest schools of its type and is still affiliated with Tufts Univ. Few public school systems include nursery education; the facilities offered are chiefly private, philanthropic, or cooperative.

See H. M. Christianson, The Nursery School: Adventure in Learning and Living (1961); K. H. Read, The Nursery School (5th ed. 1971).

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pre·school • adj. / ˈprēˈskoōl/ of or relating to the time before a child is old enough to go to elementary school: a preschool play group. ∎  (of a child) under the age at which compulsory schooling begins. • n. / ˈprēˌskoōl/ a nursery school: she goes to preschool. DERIVATIVES: pre·school·er n.

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nurs·er·y school • n. a school for young children, mainly between the ages of three and five.